Fury at the Railway Friendly as Byron Hits the End of the Line

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Photo: Wade Laube. Derailed . . . Protesters greet one of the last trains. Byron Bay’s Railway Friendly Bar will keep rocking, but when the last train leaves the platform tomorrow night the town’s railway service will stop rolling. The bar of the Railway Friendly in Byron backs on to the tracks of the Casino-Murwillumbah branch line, which carried its first train 110 years ago. With its eclectic clientele, antique fishing reel collection, cold beer, live music and marinated tofu burgers, the Railway has been the first point of call for thousands who have taken the long train journey north seeking the famed sun, surf and hippy hedonism of Byron. But from Monday, the XPT service from Sydney will terminate at Casino. It means Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby, Byron and Lismore will be serviced by buses and dozens of rail workers will lose their jobs – and the locals who prop up the bar at the Railway are furious. Denise Campbell was born in Byron 56 years ago and used to catch the train each day to high school at Mullumbimby. “For the future of this town we need the railway,” she said before joining a rally chanting “save our train” that greeted astonished backpackers getting off the XPT on Thursday night. North Coast mayors and MPs have been making the same plea to the State Government ever since it announced the line’s closure in last month’s mini-budget. In the fast-growing region where local roads and the Pacific Highway already struggle to cope with traffic, they argue that the closure of a service that carries 133,000 passengers a year is madness. Byron Shire councillor Peter Westheimer said that as well as the rail service being important for locals, the area gets 1.7 million visitors a year who should be able to come by train to ease congestion and the carnage on the roads. Neale Battersby, a former train driver who heads Northern Rivers Trains for the Future, says that as well as maintaining the daily XPT service, the line should have a frequent light rail service and be extended north to Tweed Heads to link with the Queensland rail system through the Gold Coast to Brisbane. A spokesman for the Transport Minister, Michael Costa, said the line had to close because it would cost $188 million to maintain over the next 20 years and the Commonwealth Grants Commission had slashed funding to … Read More

horstFury at the Railway Friendly as Byron Hits the End of the Line